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4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars

on 31 August 2015
Excellent - as always
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 26 March 2014
In this seventh installment in the "Safehold" series in which the major character up to now has been Merlin Athrawes, a.k.a. Nimue Alban, the land war in Siddarmark continues while people on both sides of the war are making more and more use of their own minds, something which the evil "Church of God Awaiting" wanted to stop. And there is one big surprise in the book, which the front cover nearly, but not quite, gives away.

Some people love this series and others hate it. If you read this author mainly for his high-tech space battles, such as those in the Honor Harrington universe which kicks off with "On Basilisk Station (Honorverse)" you should probably leave the "Safehold" series alone.

Here is a possible test for whether you will like the "Safehold" series. If you play computer games or board games, the likelihood that you will enjoy this series is directly proportional to the pleasure you get from playing Sid Meier's Civilisation (link: Sid Meier's Civilization V) or similar games. The heroine of this series is doing what the successful Civ player has to do: shepherd a nation surrounded by enemies one step at a time from a pre-industrial era with muscle-powered weapons and units such as swordsmen and galleys through increasingly advanced periods of history and up to the space age while balancing the competing demands of defence against hostile powers, economic development, and scientific research, and simultaneously juggling politics, culture and religion.

Like previous novels in the series this is another massive doorstop of a book, with eight pages of maps and 567 pages of story followed by another 88 pages of appendices (particularly a full character index of everyone in the first seven books.) So you may be surprised to hit the end of the novel when there is still more than half a centimetre of pages to go in the hardback, or when the progress bar at the bottom of the page on the kindle reaches about 85%. However, the editing of this volume was a bit tighter than some previous installments, and the author is showing clearer signs that he knows how to move the story forward.

If you're going to read this series, don't begin with this book: start at the beginning and work through in order. The seven "Nimue Alban"/Safehold books published to date are:

1) Off Armageddon Reef
2) By Schism Rent Asunder
3) By Heresies Distressed
4) A Mighty Fortress (Safehold 4)
5) How Firm a Foundation (Safehold)
6) "Midst Toil and Tribulation (Safehold)"
7) This book, "Like a Mighty Army"

Not all the ideas are new: the story is a re-working of concepts from Weber's earlier books, particularly the Dahak trilogy "Mutineer's Moon," "The Armageddon Inheritance" and "Heirs Of Empire." (That trilogy has also been published in one book as "Empire from the Ashes".) But IMHO Weber uses the experience he has gained in the meantime to re-use the same basic ideas more effectively and with some original twists.

For example, the Gbaba alien attackers who are at war against humanity at the start of the first book, and the threat of whom hangs over subsequent books, will remind many Weber fans of the Kangas from "The Apocalypse Troll" and even more of the Achuultani from the "Dahak" trilogy.

The anti-technological church which the heroes and heroines are struggling against throughout the first seven books, and at least one or two to come before it is time to face the Gbaba again, bears a striking resemblance to the church on Pardal in "Heirs of Empire," the third book in the Dahak trilogy. But in both cases the presentation of those ideas is better done.

None of the statements in this review are spoilers for "Like a Mighty Army" but the following comments about the setting of this seventh book may infer more than you want to know about the outcomes of the six previous books if you have not read them yet. If that is the case I suggest you navigate to the page for "Off Armageddon Reef" or the first book you have not yet read (see links above) without reading further here.

The basic idea for the series begins in the 25th century, when humanity finds evidence that other intelligent races have recently existed on nearby stars but that a xenophobic alien race is exterminating them. The Terran Federation has just enough warning to make a fight of it when that enemy, the Gbaba, finds us and attacks ten years later. The war lasts fifty years - but towards the end of that time it is obvious that humanity is losing.

Operation Ark, a final desperate attempt to plant a colony thousands of light years away from the area patrolled by the enemy, is launched. If they succeed, the colonists will face a choice: try to build a civilisation powerful enough to defeat the Gbaba, or abandon any technology which might attract their attentions and simply hide.

The anti-technological faction in the leadership of the new colony win, and set up on the planet "Safehold" a totalitarian theocracy whose main aim is to stifle any technical change. For eight hundred years nobody on the planet knew that it was a colony, that humanity has a deadly enemy out among the stars, or that the real reason for the ban on technology was not God's command but to avoid attracting the attention of that enemy.

However, eight hundred years after the founding of Safehold, a cyborg was activated with the mind and memories of Lieutenant-Commander Nimue Alban, a brilliant tactician who had been one of the thousands of people who gave their lives that the colony fleet could get through. When the corrupt leaders of the church attempted to destroy the nation of Charis for being too innovative, Nimue adopted the persona of "Merlin Athrawes," a warrior mystic, and helped them to defeat the initial church invasion.

At the start of the fifth book, through a mixture of war and brilliant diplomacy, Cayleb, the young King of Charis, had with Merlin's assistance created and consolidated an empire comprising most of the maritime island nations in the part of Safehold around his original kingdom. As Charis controls the islands and the seas, while the corrupt leaders of the Temple dominate the main landmass, we appeared to have the same sort of stalemate as when the Royal Navy of Nelson's time dominated the seas while Napoleon's Army dominated the land.

But then during the fifth book the villain of the series, Grand Inquisitor Clyntahn, attempted to overthrow the government of the Republic of Siddarmark on the main landmass. Beset by "Temple Loyalist" rebels and facing huge invading forces of the Temple's so-called "Army of God" the position of those loyal to the Republic of Siddarmark looks desperate. But if Charis can help them hold on, a foothold for the good guys in Siddarhark will provide them with an invasion route to the Temple itself.

The sixth book described the first year's desperate campaigning in the massive land war which follows. But by the start of "Like a mighty army" loyal Siddarmark forces and their allies from Charis have held off the "Army of God" for that first year - long enough for the dynamics of the war to change.

One of the things that David Weber is best at is describing events, both diplomatic confrontations and wars, from the perspective of various viewpoint characters on different sides. In this series there is a particular added element to this - the "Good Guys" don't just need to win the war, they also need to start people on the other side THINKING for themselves so that the people of Safehold may become ready to learn the truth about the massive lies they have been sold, the real history of the planet, and the true enemy of every human which is waiting out beyong the stars. Previous stories have had sub-plots showing various people on the wrong side start to think for themselves - sometimes paying a very heavy price for it. Some of those characters had to change sides, some began to walk a tightrope between what they think is right and bringing the wrath of the Inquisition down on themselves and their families.

Let's just say that one or two more characters who start out loyal to the temple and the old ways of doing things have an epiphany in this book.

If you are only interested in getting back to the space battles, you may agree with the other reviewer who referred to this book as "filler." If however you have any interest in land warfare between the 16th and 19th centuries, and what happened when different military technologies clashed, you may find it fascinating. At this stage of the story the good guys are still rolling out, training and equipping their forces with tactics and weapons roughly correspond to those between the American Civil War and late 19th century while the "Church of God Awaiting" has, mostly with the aid of captured and stolen Charisian designs, equipped their forces to roughly the technological level of the Napoleonic era. And one or two people working for the church have come up with their own new weapons, not necessarily inferior to those of Charis ...

The author's depiction of how the pressure of war might spur the two competing society to modernise their economies, war production, weaponry and tactics is covered in enormous detail. Personally I found most of this detail interesting, but had to skim through a few passages where the detail didn't do anything for me or appear central to the plot. There will be more than a few readers who find that all this detail makes the story far too slow.

This book will probably, like the last two or three in this series or "Storm from the Shadows" in the author's "Honor Harrington" universe, be one of the books which a significant part of the author's fanbase hate because there are not enough space or high tech battles. But I think most of those who have enjoyed the previous books in this series will enjoy it.
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on 21 March 2014
As the whole series has progressed the characters have developed in a logical and reasoned way. The world in which they occupy is also a rich and vibrant environment.

I thoroughly recommend that you read this whole series. The whole scenario running in it is well thought out and most importantly you get the reasons behind the decisions made on all sides.

If you read this series and enjoy it try Mr Weber's " Honor Harrington" series. True space opera.
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on 11 March 2014
This continues the story of the last remaining human outpost, hidden on the obscure planet named Safehold after the genocidal attentions of the alien Gbaba. To keep the planet unnoticed and make sure that its nascent civilisation would not call attention to itself by emitting radio signals, the paranoidal group that seized violent control of it after it was settled, locked the civilisation into a pre-technical theocracy, called the "Church of God Awaiting". They enforced their control by setting up a system of technology censoring called the Inquisition – with all that implies. Unfortunately, the ruling theocrats have become corrupt, and the Inquisition is being used to ensure that the cozy lifestyle of the Church rulers is not threatened. Religious schism and rebellion inevitably occur, assisted by the last remnants of the high technology that had founded the planet. As the book starts, the rebels are facing a huge assault in the Holy War instituted by the "Group of Four" who control the Church, and humanity's future hangs in the balance.

The book is intricately plotted, but it is well written and the many threads of the story are interwoven without losing clarity. It majors on action, not character development, and on that, you cannot fault it. I was personally happy to discover that Hector Aplyn-Ahrmahk survived the attentions of the ungodly, and I am looking forward to the next installment.
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on 7 December 2015
The first book in this series, Off Armageddon Reef, was truly outstanding. But really Mr. Weber should have stopped there. Sadly, I'm hooked albeit I wait until the paperback price has dropped to a fiver before I buy. The series is suffering from worditis - a voluminous out-pouring of Mr. Weber's thoughts which at times meander all over the place. In this book, he introduces pointless characters, utterly boring descriptions of the economies of Charisia in particular, detail on the finer points of how to generate an industrial revolution, the development of a military/industrial complex in a feudal society: and advances the whole story line infinitesimally.

Want to know what happens? Another avatar of Nimue is created, for no real reason other than to allow Athrawes to be in more places at the same time, there is ever increasing use of technology, despite fear of whatever is hidden beneath the Citadel; and the boys from Charisia and Chisholm start to do rather well in the war against the Faithful. Er - that's it.

What saves the book are Mr. Weber's always excellent battle descriptions and the overall marvellous story arc. I fear however that at this rate I'll be long retired before we find out if humanity ever drags itself out of the 15th century in a fit shape to tackle the aliens.

Buy this book cheaply and persevere to the end: better still, borrow it from someone because you'll never read it again. But you'll be happy that you read it once.
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on 22 February 2014
Everything that I expected. Prolix as always with David Weber but I couldn't put it down until I had completed it.
I had followed the "snippets" and wanted my hands on the book ASAP.

I detest the publisher's policies of delayed publication in the UK compared with the USA and the highly discriminatory price differences. It is actually cheaper for me to get a friend in Texas to buy the book and post it to me than to pay the UK price
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on 28 February 2015
Rather sad this episode in the long running Safehold Series barely advances the plot one wit over the previous book. Rather like the Grand Old Duke Of York there is a tremendous marching (and sailing) up and down and little else. Disappointing, better to wait for the muse to get to work before going in to print.
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on 11 June 2014
This book was available after a long wait due to the policy of publishing in America first. The story built on the previous books and got away to a great start almost from the first page. This book is a great read. I was unable to put it down after I had started. Each portion of the story led to another or to part of one which was already building. The stories all neatly dovetail towards the end. The glossary at the end is over 90 pages long and is probably overdone but apart from that you cannot fault the book and the story. I look forward with anticipation to the next book becoming available.
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on 20 April 2014
Onward Charisian soldiers!

If you're expecting any quick resolutions to the greater plot arcs, forget it. If you tuned in to see the Charisians and Siddermarkians beating the glowing green snot out of the 'Temple boys' as the new slang has it, this is exactly what you were looking for. Some people will say it's more of the same, but at least it's a good more of the same. And some things do progress, such as the Iris/Hektor romance and the integration of Corisande into the Charisian Empire as a full princedom. And we have a new player in the form of a second PICA appearing on the scene...

Obviously the story suffers from Turtledove syndrome (so many viewpoint characters and skipping back and forth between them) and as a result doesn't exactly leap along like a dainty gazelle, but that's kind of inevitable when you're telling a story of this scope. Some people will also find the lack of reverses for the good guys annoying, but I'm perfecgtly happy to read a good old curb stomp once in a while. And it's only a curb stomp tactically, on a strategic level there are plenty of indications that Mummy Church isn't anywhere near out of the fight yet.

So, overall a good and fun read.
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on 19 February 2015
To get an idea of how complicated the world of safehold is, I showed the index of charectors to my wife. It looks like a mini novella. Now try to keep all those people and their various storylines clear in your head as a reader. Yeah! Crushing migraine!. My respect for weber as the writer of such a rich and varied universe is real. He gives life to people who are as real as any sitting around me now, people with lives and dreams goals and setbacks, in essence they are charectors that you can emphatise with. It makes the unending lists of support bearable when you feel for them.
The story is enriched by 'mighty army' but not really advanced too far, which is frustrating for the reader but it makes the story more real, as war is seldom a quick run thing. *spoiler* it is great that merlin finally gets some help in the guise of the original persona of nimue in her own 'owl' built body. Can't wait for 'foundations' to push the story on! Overall a great engaging read.
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